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Letters Email

The role of the Ombudsman

THE EDITOR, Madam:

The Ombudsman system which originated in Sweden in 1809 has since become a standard part of government machinery throughout the democratic world. The Ombudsman is an officer appointed by that body of the State responsible for making laws, to receive and investigate complaints from citizens against unjust administrative action.

In Donald C. Rowat's publication, 'The Ombudsman', he made it known that the powers of the Ombudsman as defined in the constitution have generally remained unchanged ever since their origination. Basically these powers are to supervise how judges, Government officers and other civil servants observe the laws and to prosecute those who have acted illegally or neglected their duties.

Jamaica's Ombudsman, Bishop Herro Blair, in performing his supervisory duties has access to all documents, even the secret ones, and he has the right to be present at all deliberations at which administrative officials make their ruling. It is vital to note that, on request of the Ombudsman, all officials are obliged to provide him with the information they have on a matter in question. Importantly also is that the Ombudsman has the right to ask for the assistance of any official for the purpose of making necessary investigations.

Anyway, the Ombudsman does not have the authority to change the decisions of courts or administrative officials because he is not a judge. In principle, he is still a public prosecutor in cases of undue interference or errors on the part of the nation's officialdom. Many times, the Ombudsman finds that a public reprimand or criticism of a decision is all that is necessary.

On a yearly basis, the Ombudsman has to present his report to Parliament which accounts for the work he has done and of the investigation he has made including a summary of the most important cases he has made a ruling on during the past year.

An exceptional part of Bishop Blair's duties, both formally and in reality, is his independence not only of Government but also of Parliament itself. He decides for himself which subjects he shall investigate and makes his own decision on what action should be taken. He does not receive any instruction as to which cases he should investigate, nor does he allow anybody in Parliament to try and influence him to act in a certain direction when he is investigating a particular case.

Significantly, the political parties in Parliament always try to unite in the selection of an Ombudsman so that the general public may have full confidence in his political independence.

Jamaica's Ombudsman, Bishop Herro Blair, certainly has a herculean task ahead for which he must ask for God's guidance.

I am, etc.,

VALENTINE PEARSON

Cornwall Courts

Montego Bay

St. James

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July 5, 2004
 

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